Interviews are usually face-to-face communication but sometimes you need to communicate with your interviewer online before the interview.
What do you need to know about online communication so you do this right?
Online Communication before the Interview
Rules for social media
This is the #1 rule
I know social media feels like a place you can "relax," but this is only true if you're talking to your friends.
If you're talking to people you have professional relationships with, like school admissions officers or HR reps, you need to behave politely.
If you don't, they will remember you and you will not get into school or get the job.
Everything you post on social media is public (at least to your connections).
If you friend or follow someone, they will probably notice you and read your profile. If you make a bad impression, they will remember you when you meet them for the interview.
If you're applying to a high school or college, this is probably the first time you've thought about having a "professional" internet presence, but these days schools Google you.
If you're applying for a job, the same rules apply. Many companies do check your internet presence, especially your LinkedIn profile, before they ask you to interview.
Use a profile photo
I see many social media profiles that don't have a photo at all. Do not do this. We all like to “see” who we're talking to.
Use your real photo
I also see profile photos that use celebrities, animals, cartoon characters, or photos of people who are clearly models. Please don't do this if you want to use your profile professionally (if you are applying to college and using your profile to contact admissions officials, this is professional use).
We know these photos are not you. We know that Harry Potter and Prince William do not want to be friends with us.
Use your real name
Your interviewer knows that "Myste Rious" and "Whitee Sharkk" are not real people. You're funny, but not funny in a good way. Again, be professional.
Rules for greeting someone you don't know
You can say "Hi" (informal) or "Hello" (formal). You can add "How are you?" or "Nice to meet you." You can also add their name to these if you want: "Hi Jennifer," "Hello Jennifer," or "Nice to meet you Jennifer." If you want to be more formal (which you should with your interviewer) you can say "Ms. Scupi" instead of Jennifer: "Hello Ms. Scupi."
Do not use the greeting "hey." It means "hi" but is more informal.
"J" is a nickname, or a short form, of my name, Jennifer.
Do not use a nickname for someone the first time you meet them. Nicknames are for friends.
Do not say
"Mrs." is not okay because you don't know me, so you don't know if I'm married. The proper way to greet me is "Hello Jennifer" (informal) or "Hello Ms. Scupi" (formal).
When to use Miss/Ms./Mrs.
Miss (for unmarried women)
Mrs. (for married women)
Ms. (does not show marital status – many women, including me, prefer it because of this)
If you don't know which one a woman prefers, choose Ms.
Sir or Ma'am/Miss
Do not call me "sir"
"Sir" is for men only. You can call me "Miss" or "Ma'am." Miss is for younger and unmarried women and Ma'am is for older or married women.
If you don't know my gender, use my first name, like this - "Hello Jennifer Scupi."
I wish I didn't have to say this, but make sure you spell my name right.
You can see in the image above that the person called me "Jenifer," which is not how you spell my name.
Check the spelling before you send your message.
The first letter of first and last names should be capitalized. My name is Ms. Jennifer Scupi (all the first letters capped - M, J, and S).
Proper Use of "Dear"
The proper use of "Dear" is in a formal business letter. This is correct: "Dear Ms. Scupi," - this is how you would address a formal business letter or email to me. It is only appropriate at the beginning of a long form communication document like a business letter or business email.
Improper Use of "Dear"
- Hello Dear
- Hi my dear friend
- Hello dear teacher
- Dear teacher?
- Dear beautiful lady
"Hello dear" is what you would say to someone you love. In this case you are using "dear" in the same way you would use "sweetheart" or "darling." We have a professional relationship, so it's not appropriate. Especially if you are a man and I am a woman.
"Hi my dear friend." You would say this to someone who is in fact a very good friend of yours. We aren't friends, we are professional contacts, so it's inappropriate.
"Hello dear teacher." Here you are using two greetings in one phrase and one of them (dear) is used for formal letters only.
"Dear teacher?" Again you are using the greeting used for formal letters.
"Dear beautiful lady." You are using the greeting for formal letters and also talking about my personal appearance, which is not appropriate.
Hello Teacher, Hello Lawyer
Many of my students call me "Teacher" during our first class. They often say,"Hello Teacher."
This is not how we address teachers or other professionals in America.
Imagine you go into a lawyer's office. Would you say, "Hello Lawyer"? No, you wouldn't. You would say, "Hello Ms. Scupi." What if you didn't know her name? What would you call her? You wouldn't call her anything, you would just say, "Hello."
When in doubt, just say "Hello."
Rules for text speak
Do you know what "text speak" is? Or should I say, "do u no wt txtspk is?"
Text speak, also known as text language, SMS language, chat speak, and txttalk, is the abbreviations and slang commonly used with cell phone text messaging but also with other digital/online communication.
The #1 rule for text speak is: Don't use text speak to talk to your interviewer
Different situations require different styles of communication. Text speak is appropriate for informal communication - when talking to your friends, for example.
Text speak is not appropriate for formal communication, which is what you should use in interviews.
Why? It sounds unprofessional and impolite. It will make you look young, uneducated, and/or lazy.
How to avoid text speak
Use your vowels
Text speak often involves removing vowels:
c u l8r
Put your vowels back in.
Use proper spelling and punctuation
Don't use abbreviations.
This is not how you spell "How are you?"
Other examples I see, and one that I use (but only with friends!)
OMG (my personal fave)
Text speak is okay if you are talking to your friends, but not when you are talking to an admissions official or a potential employer or anyone who will be part of your academic or professional life.
Use proper capitalization
These words need to be in capital letters:
- the first word of every sentence
- proper nouns
I often see messages where none of the letters are capped, not even the first one in the sentence. That looks very strange and is incorrect.
Don't use more than one exclamation point
Too many exclamation marks show you’re young and inexperienced. People won't respect you.
Stickers are part of text speak. And you should not use them. I repeat, do not use stickers.
I know that they are very popular and there is nothing wrong with them. But if you are trying to get into school or get a job you need to create a professional image. Stickers are not professional.
They're cute, but not professional.
People sometimes use stickers and images to thank me for adding them as a friend. This is okay. However, see the next point.
Americans and stickers
Most American adults don't use stickers professionally. If you are trying to make a good impression on an American interviewer, avoid using stickers in your correspondence.
Emoticons are pictures made out of facial expressions. They are usually made out of punctuation.
:) happy face
:( sad face.
Many phones/computers will turn these into actual pictures, also called emoji.
They are not professional. Do not use them with your interviewer.
Being patient is polite.
If you don't get a response to your message, wait. Stop. Wait some more. Do not send another message.
I'm busy. We're all busy. If I'm your future interviewer, I am busy and I am trying to do my job as fast as I can. I will return your message soon.
Let's work together preparing for your interview. Email me at email@example.com to schedule a consultation.
Interview Genie is an interview prep company. I specialize in coaching non-native English speakers.